Sure, we love lazy summer days with gentle breezes and stretches of silence long enough to read seven sleazy chapters. But when you need noise and we mean the kind of gut-churning, chest-rattling noise that makes a Korn concert sound like the meowing of a newborn kitten it's time to head to the race track. Whether it's the drag strip of Virginia Motorsports Park, the in-your-face action of Southside Speedway or the Holy Temple of NASCAR, Richmond International Raceway, nothing will get your motor running like a summer night in the pits.Virginia Motorsports Park: Where Racing's a Drag
Drag racing is a very complex picture. What looks as simple as two cars pairing off and running down a quarter-mile track actually involves a lot of physics. Knowledge of the advanced technical aspects of the sport means understanding every race is different. As a racer pre-stages and moves up to the Christmas-tree-colored lights, a slew of variables flit around his head and automobile. External factors like temperature, humidity, the surface of the track and, most importantly, the other racer he's competing against. Also internal factors, like the width of his wheelbase and his front and rear treads. Or whether he's burning gasoline, alcohol or nitromethane.
And that ain't even the half of it.
Yet, with all these details flying around, all these numbers and statistics, and us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the light to go green and never knowing who's going to win, there is one thing for certain, however. The Virginia Motorsports Park offers, quite simply, the fastest accelerating machines on the planet, with speeds averaging 320-plus mph. That means if you climbed into the cockpit of one these suckers and left the Dinwiddie track for Georgetown at 1:30 on a Friday night, you could still make last call, not figuring in parking.
For nighttime racing action, check out "Bill Talley Ford 'Street Wars'" every Friday night with the general public racing street-legal cars (admission, $8); Saturdays, it's "Test & Tune/Standard Parts ET Points Series" (admission, $10).
Don't forget Virginia Motorsports Park's big sunshine events either; they start in the morning and end around dusk: June 3-4, 10 a.m.
Battle of the Imports, IDRA
Imported cars and the best racers from the West Coast come over and duke it out with us Easterners.June 17, 9 a.m.
The swankiest, most souped-up Chevys you've ever seen compete for Best of Show and Champion of the Series. June 24-25, 9 a.m.
Fun Ford Weekend
Ford cars and trucks stop competing against Chevy for a weekend and battle it out against each other. July 29, 9 a.m.
1/8 Mile Summer Showdown
Cold hard cash for racing. No. 3 of the Big Bucks Series.
Virginia Motorsports Park is located outside Petersburg in Dinwiddie, 8018 Boydton Plank Road. For more info call 732-7223, or visit virginiamotorsportspk.com
.Map It Southside Speedway: If You Build It, They Will Crash
Stock car racing's like fishing. It doesn't matter how expensive your fly rod is or what kind of lure you use, because what it comes down to is Fisherman vs. Fish. That's why no matter how great a pit crew may be, or how advanced an emission-system is, all it takes to win a race is a stock motor and gifted driver.
The Southside Speedway is where amateur racers go from Richmond and the surrounding areas with hopes of getting into professional NASCAR racing. It's where they cut their teeth: where they learn to jet the carbs based on humidity and how cams will break even when you do all the maintenance on time. It's where they learn the meaning of the term "Spec Happens!" when a car can be disqualified for being 1/16 of an inch too low. (And you thought passing state inspection was tough.)
Every Saturday of the summer, after they have spent a long week of calculating and modifying their driving machines, these young local racers feel extreme anticipation. This is how they get into the big leagues. This is their field of dreams.
Southside Speedway is located at 12800 Genito Road, off Route 360 (Hull Street Road). A combination of Grand Stocks, Pure Stocks, Champ Cars, Enduros, Pro Six, Mini Cup, Modified, Legends and Baby Grands race Every Saturday night. Gates open at 2 p.m. Qualifying at 5 p.m. Racing at 7 p.m. For more info call 744-1275, or visit southsidespeedway.com
.Map ItRichmond International Raceway: The Red Meat of Racing
Let's not beat around the bush here. NASCAR's a huge party that's easily 100,000 strong. It starts in the morning in the parking lot, lasts all day long, then culminates in the stands under the nighttime lights. It involves drinking and smoking, laughing and partying, and is really no different from seeing the Grateful Dead. And even though you'll probably never see someone holding up their finger and saying, "I need a miracle," the fans are mad loyal.
Not only do they tour cross-country to see their racers, they also patronize his sponsors exclusively. If your driver uses Goodyear tires and Interstate batteries, then that's what you use, too. If you're a Scott Pruett fan and Ukrop's is out of Tide, you trek it over Hannaford.
But to be fair, NASCAR is more than just a scene of a different flavor. There is a distinct thrill beyond dressing and acting the part, beyond all the products and partying. It's a pure adrenaline-fueled buzz. Watching stock cars racing and crashing at high speeds under the stars and the big spotlights is invigorating, and has actually been known to increase testosterone. That's really the only difference between racing fans and Deadheads. Instead of floral prints, folk music and Jerry Garcia, NASCAR's like watching "Gladiator" times 10. Sept. 7, 8 p.m.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series 200
$30 adults, 12 and younger freeSept. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Busch Series Autolite Platinum 250
$40 in advance, $35 at the door, 12 and younger freeSept. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400
The Richmond International Raceway is located at the intersection of East/West I-64 and North/South I-95 on the Virginia State Fairgrounds on Strawberry Hill. For more info call 345-7223, or visit www.rir.com